“On Leather Wings,” is the pilot to “Batman: The Animated Series,” and it does a good job at establishing the different relationships…what defines Batman’s baddies (usually have some issue going on), his relationship to the police (they hate him) and his identity as Bruce Wayne.
The Baddy is established first as Kirk a scientist who creates a new species that is a mixture of man and bat (Man-Bat) the thing is though the serum is putting him out of control and he is the creature. Classic Jeckyll and Hyde story. The doctor has mostly good intentions but in his mad quest for knowledge he becomes a monster. Luckily in this case he eventually gets the chemical out of his system…this being based off a comic book though the door is left open with Bruce Wayne’s suspicion that Man-Bat may return.
The police are hunting him and he is blamed for the actions of Man-Bat (throwing a security guard out a building and attacks). There is Comissioner Gordon and D.A. Harvey Dent who are no-nonsense…if Batman is caught they will bring him in but not at the the expense of the real culprit in this case. The corrupt Detective Bullock is established as the corrupt underbelly of Gotham too…you can’t count on Gotham PD in any universe.
Next is Bruce Wayne who is established as the rich playboy businessman using his money for good. You see his charisma and he is instantly likeable and real since he backs up his words with actions. Kevin Conroy sells it as Wayne and of course as the darker Batman.
Now for the assessment:
The pros: The writing – Is solid and there are great humorous moments such as the security guard pretending to be a news announcer as well as helicopter pilots joking. Wayne is seen as a real person too, not just the brooder.
The characters – Are introduced and you get to know them a little. You see Harvey Dent and his coin and you also see his idealism, you see the no-nonsense of Gordon, the sleaze of Bullock and of course Alfred and Bruce.
The tone – It is dark and fantastic. It knows it is a fantasy but still follows rules. It has an idealized version of the future (blimps everywhere in the opening) with old style cars and tv…it is a mixture of the old and new, much like Bruce Wayne.
Okay: The Message – “Jekyll and Hyde” – don’t let knowledge corrupt. It isn’t handled amazingly, just okay. I never cared about the scientist Kirk like I would other baddies like Mr. Freeze, Two-Face and Harley Quinn.
The cons: Kirk/Man-Bat – Weak character in any universe. Thankfully the cops are there to pick up the slack as antagonists to Batman. Bullock is a much better driving force this episode.
I would give this episode an 8 / 10. Solidly good, but not great. Good introduction to a great series though. The classic episodes and worse episodes come later.